Man who molested woman and then punched her and a friend avoids jail
A Co Tyrone man has been handed a suspended prison sentence and made subject to restraining orders for attacking two women in a takeaway after placing his hand under the shorts of one.
The judge said that while the sexual assault by Kieran McElroy was serious on its own, there was "follow-up aggression" to both victims, who required hospital treatment.
McElroy (25), from Annaghmore Lane, Ardboe, admitted physically attacking the two women which occurred after he had sexually assaulting one of them.
He also admitted disorderly behaviour in the early morning incident on July 1.
Dungannon Magistrates Court heard how police had spoken to McElroy at around 1.50am on the date in question as he was causing a disturbance at a Cookstown takeaway.
He initially struggled with officers but when removed from the scene calmed down considerably.
It was decided to leave matters for a time and officers issued a warning before moving on to other duties.
However, a few hours later police received a report from two women who were at Antrim Area Hospital receiving treatment for injuries. One had also been sexually assaulted.
The women identified McElroy as they recognised him as a resident in the same general area, although neither knew him personally.
They had been queuing for food in the takeaway when McElroy approached from behind.
He placed a hand under one of the woman's shorts making direct skin contact and rubbed her bottom.
She reacted and McElroy pushed her violently. Her friend intervened and he proceeded to punch her for doing so.
Police arrested him the following morning and he gave a "no comment" interview. In a later interview he claimed to have "no recall" of the incident as he had been drinking heavily.
All offences were admitted at court.
A defence barrister pointed out that the women were at least 10 years older than his client and the sexual incident was: "A single touch, at the lowest category as no genitalia involved."
But District Judge Stephen Keown replied: "I am concerned about the facts. This was a very serious offence."
This was accepted by the defence, who said that McElroy was "ashamed and shocked by his conduct". He added: "There is no history of violence and the likelihood of reoffending has been assessed as low.
"My client is aware his behaviour cannot be repeated and the court will not tolerate it."
Judge Keown said: "This wasn't even an isolated incident. There was follow-up aggression to both women.
"One was handled in this appalling way, she reacts, is assaulted and then her friend tries to assist and is likewise attacked.
"A terrible experience for both victims. The custody threshold is clearly crossed."
A sentence of three months' imprisonment was imposed, but the judge decided this could be suspended for two years.
Restraining orders banning contact or harassment of the two victims were imposed, which will also be effective for two years.
The court was told sex offender registration does not apply in this instance.